By Ben Fractenberg
UPPER EAST SIDE — A shortened route and a controversy weren’t enough to dampen one of New York City’s oldest and largest parades.
Up to two million people waving the red, white and blue flags of Puerto Rico cheered as the celebration danced its way up Fifth Avenue for the 53rd time Sunday.
“I feel so cheerful,” said Richard Row, moving to the beat as he watched musicians, salsa dancers and floats pass his viewpoint at 58th Street.
The highlight for him was seeing Bronx-born beauty Jennifer Lopez, heading the march with husband Marc Anthony.
“She was off the hook,” he said. “I would like to say more, but I can’t in front of my wife.”
Anthony served as the parade’s “international godfather,” replacing telenovela star Osvaldo Rios who stepped down following uproar over his domestic violence conviction for beating his girlfriend.
Several parade-goers threatened not to attend before Rios dropped out last week.
The revelers also had a shorter route and a shorter day.
New rules limit city parades to five hours in an effort to cut down on police overtime. The Puerto Rican party-goers have usually celebrated for more than seven hours in past years.
The parade also ended at 79th Street, instead of the usual 86th Street finish point.
But the changes did nothing to spoil the day.
“I feel great,” said Aramis Lopez, pointing out a float with the name of his Puerto Rican hometown, Toa Baja, on it.
“It’s very important because you get people from different towns.”
“All the Puerto Ricans are coming together like a family,” said Vayva Estrella, 17, from the Bronx, who was there with her friends.
Marching beside J-Lo and Marc Anthony was Mayor Bloomberg. Other politicians who took part were Gov. David Paterson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is hoping to take Paterson’s place in November.